On my family’s recent trip to Paris, I sometimes felt overwhelmed with the staggering amount of amazing architecture and history at every turn. I never tired of looking at it but I did tire of not knowing the stories behind the buildings, statues, and paintings. This is where a great walking tour of Paris makes all the difference. Ciao Bambino has covered a variety of private family tours, including the Paris Muse Louvre tour which receives rave reviews from our readers and travel planning clients. I have always wondered if the private tour with an expert guide are really worth it with kids.
What I failed to realize is that while most tours are just a few hours long, the benefits of what the kids learn lasts an entire trip and even a lifetime. Paris Muse hosted my family on their “If Buildings Could Talk” Paris family walk. My kids are 5 and 8 and I know that there are certain aspects of the tour that they will always remember.
The Paris walking tour lasts 2.5 – 3 hours and it flows well. The tour starts at the Place des Vosges and Victor Hugo’s house (author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and ends at Notre Dame Cathedral (expect adjustments to the end point during reconstruction). Along the way we learned about important architectural structures and personages of the time.
For the most part, the walking tour took us away from the large summer crowds and into parts of Paris that we would never have seen otherwise. The tour is focused on the children although the adults learn as much as the kids do and are welcome to participate. During the tour, the kids are given a unique combination compass/binoculars instrument to use throughout the walk to help lead the way and identify sculptures and markings on buildings including an embedded cannon ball – these were a big hit.
The guide. It was obvious from the first five minutes that Inge, our tour guide, knew how to engage kids. Her expertise and skill with children is what separated this experience from other sightseeing tours or hop on/hop off bus rides. And when sibling bickering came up she didn’t flinch. Her knowledge of the history of Paris and how to convey that to the kids was astounding. Even with a guidebook, I could never have shown them history in this way. Inge was able to show them through the architecture how the French value and preserve their history and I think the kids got it.
History mixing with present-day Paris. The tour successfully shows how history mixes with and becomes part of everyday life in Paris. Never was this more apparent then when we stopped to look at a portion of the old Paris city wall. While we learned to read the mason’s marks on the stones of the wall, French teenagers played basketball on the court right next to us. It was a bit surreal and so unlike anything we see in the U.S.
They learned something! You never know what kids will remember from a vacation and it seems like mine tend to remember the desserts they ate more than anything else. I didn’t realize what they had absorbed from the tour until our next visit to a church and castle. They immediately began to search for the mason’s marks on the stones of the castle and the rose stained glass window in the church only to remember that rose windows are only found in the cathedrals or basilicas. I felt like they left the tour with a set of tools that they subsequently used the rest of our vacation. This was an unexpected surprise. Granted they’ll never forget all those chocolate croissants either. (Maybe our next trip should include a food tour!)
Tips for Families Considering the Paris Muse Walking Tour
Age Appropriate. The recommended age group is 6-12 and after seeing my 5-year-old start to break down at two hours, I think the age limit is correct. Kids also fill out a workbook as they go along, so a parent will need to help them if they cannot read and write.
Pack snacks and wear comfortable shoes. Although we had just eaten, walking around for three hours is tiring and a good snack helps keep the whining to a minimum.
Finally, to answer my own question about whether these types of family-friendly guided walking tours are worth it, the answer is yes. Expect to pay several hundred euros for a private experience. If I could have this same type of experience again with my kids, I wouldn’t hesitate to book it. If your family has other interests as far as a tour of Paris, whether its a bike tour, night tour, tour of the Latin Quarter, or you just want to be able to skip the line at the popular attractions, our family travel advisors can help. Just promise us you won’t leave the City of Lights with this type of experience shared with your family.
Editorial Note: Paris Muse provided Ciao Bambino with a complimentary tour for review purposes. As always, our opinions are our own.
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